Most of the river's water is consumed by Kern County agriculture. In 1987, the Upper Kern and the Forks of the Kern were added to the National Wild and Scenic River System. The Kern River is the longest whitewater river in the state and has more miles carrying the Wild and Scenic designation than any other river system in the continental U.S. There are only a few easy stretches: The Powerhouse run on the Upper Kern with its take out at Riverside Park and the last two miles of the Rio Bravo run are good novice experiences. The remaining runs add up to more than 50 miles of Class III and IV water.
Kernville is headquarters for boaters. Named as one of the top ten whitewater towns in the U.S. by Paddler Magazine, Kernville has a small town atmosphere. There are a variety of accommodations from budget camp sites to up-scale bed and breakfasts for those spending the week-end or a longer vacation
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